Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit troubles

Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit troubles

In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.


Much ado about Brexit. As in Scotland, a majority of people in Northern Ireland (56 percent) voted for the UK to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum. Those who did not were mostly unionists closely aligned with the UK government.

The problem is that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement — which ended large-scale sectarian violence — prohibits reinstalling a physical border between Northern Ireland, which remains part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an independent country and EU member state. For UK-EU trade, the de-facto border is now in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. As a result, unionists feel trade restrictions have isolated them from the rest of the United Kingdom.

While London and Brussels haggle over cross-border checks and trade quotas, early glitches, exacerbated by COVID disruptions, have left some Belfast supermarket shelves empty. Customs officials, facing intimidation from angry citizens, are scared to show up to work. Many loyalists now believe the Brexit agreement that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed up for has given them the short end of the stick.

But it's not all about Brexit. One of the triggers for last week's riots was unionist outrage at the non-prosecution of Sinn Féin officials who ignored COVID rules to attend the funeral of a former commander of the Irish Republican Army, responsible for most unionist deaths during The Troubles, a period of heightened sectarian violence in the early 1970s. (Sinn Féin used to be the IRA's political arm, and governed Northern Ireland in partnership with the unionist DUP until their power-sharing agreement collapsed in 2017.)

Another was a recent police crackdown on gangs led by ex-paramilitaries who have struggled to find decent jobs. Indeed, many of the rioters are youngsters with no memory of The Troubles but who live in poverty in the urban ghettos that still separate working-class Catholics and Protestants in Belfast. Pandemic-related lockdowns, job losses and education disruptions have made everything worse.

For unionists, the bigger issue is how Brexit will change Northern Ireland's future. In short, unionists fear the UK-EU split will create irresistible momentum toward Irish reunification, leaving Protestant unionists outside the UK, inside the EU, and a small and resented minority in a majority Catholic country.

A recent poll showed that 47 percent of voters prefer to remain part of the UK, compared to 42 percent in favor of joining the Irish republic. However, most Northern Irish under 45 supported leaving the UK, and if current demographic trends — Catholics have a higher fertility rate than Protestants — hold, it may be only a matter of time for Irish unity to be the majority choice.

That Brexit may end up breaking up the UK is no longer a doomsday prediction. Scotland's first minister is likely to demand a fresh referendum if pro-independence parties perform well in Scottish parliamentary elections on May 6. Republicans in Ireland will argue they have the same right. Perhaps Brexit will deliver the Irish unity that decades of violence failed to accomplish.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

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Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

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3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power — following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars — in a bid to exert its superpower bonafides.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

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Frequently called Europe's last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Lukashenko has sailed smoothly to victory in all six elections he's stood in, despite widespread corruption and fraud in each one. But in 2020 the biggest threat so far to Lukashenko's tight grip on government came in an unlikely package—a former schoolteacher and stay at home mom, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. After the election result was finalized, Lukashenko claimed victory, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets, and Tsikhanouskaya leads the opposition in exile. Lukashenko recently took his boldest move yet, diverting a plane en route from Greece to Lithuania to arrest another Belarusian dissident. Ian Bremmer discusses whether a democratic transition is remotely possible in Belarus on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

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